Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pay the Dues

Why do the deranged wade through swamps in temperatures that are often referred to as being “colder than a well-digger’s butt”? No one really knows, although individuals collectively known as the wives of outdoorsmen have offered less than credible commentary on the subject for eons of time.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote that he went to Walden Pond to live deliberately. It is more likely that the original draft said something like, “I went to the woods deliberately so that I would no longer hear about how much mud I had just tracked onto the living room carpet.”

Writers and outdoorsmen must endure hardship, because we hope that at some point it will pay off. Such was the case today. Temperatures were below freezing well into the late afternoon hours with the added bonus of blizzard conditions. The tweed-jacket-wearing sensible types that have been festooned from every cattail lately were nowhere to be found on the Bay.

I was there, contemplating which of my appendages might experience the heartbreak of frostbite first and silently hoping it wouldn't be the "vitals" as my grandfather referred to them.

With an hour of daylight to spare, a giant cloud mass swept aside revealing blue sky.

A group of swans flew past trumpeting their song, as if heralding what was close on their tails.

Eagles! Lots of them. One after another mature baldies started hitting the river outlet and hammering the carp to be found in the shallows. The light was spot on, and having paid my dues and been persistent, it was time to fill up a memory card.

A bird dropped in a huge carp and started tearing flesh off the bones.

Eagles were everywhere. Circling, landing, flying over just to take a look at what was on the menu.

8 gigabytes of photographs flowed like water. Then there was a pause in the activity. Suddenly a couple of bufflehead ducks dropped down onto the water right in front of me with some spectacular reflections coming off the surface in the evening light.

A female harrier dropped in and perched nearby, almost perfectly camoflauged in the reeds.

It didn't take long for the light to fade, but I got more quality images in the final hour of the last day than the rest of the 5 days combined. Tomorrow it's back to work, although there is satisfaction in sticking with the task even when the outlook is grim.

After all, as Thoreau found out, no one wants to die only to discover that they had not lived.

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